The Magazine

Gone to Press

The less-than-perfect messenger.

Jun 23, 2008, Vol. 13, No. 39 • By JOEL SCHWARTZ
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But that journalistic predilection points to a failing that transcends the media. Within the culture more broadly, feelings are king insofar as reason or reasons are no longer in sufficiently high regard. If it is considered easier to determine who feels more strongly than who thinks more clearly, and if vivid emotions are judged to be more "authentic" than arid rationality, feelings rather than thoughts will be given preference. This embrace of irrationality, evident also in the respect accorded fanatics because of the strength of their "commitment," augurs poorly for the future of rational discourse--and of reasoned democratic deliberation.

My point here--and Bowman would not disagree, I think--is that arrogance, irrationality, and know-nothingism are hardly unique to the media. Arguably journalists are, as one would expect, primarily messengers: The transmitters, not the originators, of a problematic message. The intellectual failings of the media that Bowman insightfully and wittily dissects are failings of American culture as a whole. The media worsen the problem of our intellectual incoherence, as Bowman convincingly shows. But they did not invent it.

Joel Schwartz is an adjunct senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.